22 March 2019
Jasper Tsang has said that he sees pan-democrats as an integral part of 'One Country Two Systems'. Photo: HKEJ
Jasper Tsang has said that he sees pan-democrats as an integral part of 'One Country Two Systems'. Photo: HKEJ

There could be a way out for Hong Kong’s political deadlock

Although Jasper Tsang Yuk-sing is not running in the upcoming Legco election, he has continued to be the focus of media attention, not least because he has said that he will consider joining the chief executive race next year under some circumstances.

According to Tsang, he will run for the top post if there is no genuine competition in the election. However, he will drop out if someone well qualified participates in the contest.

Moreover, Tsang has wowed the public by expressing in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t share the views of Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong’s incumbent leader, on the pan-democrats.

In an interview with a mainland media outlet recently, the outgoing Legco chief remarked that pan-democrats are in fact an integral part of “One Country Two Systems”. The pan-democrats and those who support them, he added, should not be automatically identified as anti-government.

As a highly experienced and prudent political leader, Tsang would definitely not have announced his intention to run for the top job off-the-cuff without Beijing’s blessings.

In the interview, the Legco chief said some high-ranking officials from Beijing had told him that the central government would no longer handpick anyone as CE next year.

Instead, Beijing would facilitate real competition among at least two candidates whom it considers qualified and reliable and then leave the final decision to members of the Election Committee.

If what Tsang said is true, then it may signify some delicate change in Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong.

Another indication of Beijing’s possible policy shift towards our city is that a recent article calling for a drastic organizational overhaul of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong has been given much publicity in mainland media.

The article openly slammed the Liaison Office for being increasingly arrogant and called on the central authorities to put it in its place.

It is rather rare for official mouthpieces in the mainland to publish a provocative article like this and allow it to go viral. The move suggests that Beijing might be trying to send some kind of positive message to the people of Hong Kong.

One might recall that National People’s Congress Standing Committee chief Zhang Dejiang and Hong Kong and Macau Office director Wang Guangya have both softened their tone toward the pan-democrats when they visited Hong Kong in May, stressing that they are indispensable to “One Country Two Systems”.

All these important signals point to one possibility: Beijing could be trying to extend the olive branch and ease off politically on Hong Kong, at least in the short run.

Even though the CE election is still seven months away and there can be a lot of variables before that, all the positive signs mentioned above indicate that Beijing might have relented on Hong Kong and could be seeking ways to break the political stalemate in our city.

It might still be too early to tell whether things are going to change for the better in the days ahead, but the possibilities are definitely interesting.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 25.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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